Better Than a War on Terrorists

by Lorin Peters

On July 22, 2011, white supremacist Anders Behring Breivik detonated a car bomb in front of the Norwegian prime minister’s office.  It killed eight, and also severely damaged the headquarters of both the Labor and the Liberal parties, the Trade Union Congress, and the Norwegian Supreme Court.  Then he ferried out to the Labor party summer camp on an isolated island, where he methodically executed 69 young people, and wounded an additional 110.[1]  (Our US population is 64 times Norway’s.  An equivalent mass murder in America would kill 4900 – quite a bit more than were killed on 9/11.)

The next morning the prime minister said the proper answer to this violence was “more democracy, more openness.” On July 25, each of the other Nordic countries held a minute of silence to honor and mourn the Norwegian victims.  In Oslo, the capital of Norway, a city of 600,000 residents, more than 200,000 people participated in a “rose march,” and mourned together at City Hall.  When young survivors of Breivik’s attack were interviewed by The New York Times, they emphasized the importance of redoubling their efforts to keep Norway open to immigrants and to fight climate change.

Fox News and The New York Times both criticized Norway for its nonviolent response to the massacre.  Breivik was very disappointed that the Norwegian courts refused to execute him and give him the martyrdom he sought in his bid to inspire a backlash against Muslim immigrants.

After the bombing, the government still placed no security guards or barriers in the government district.  Even the Norwegian Parliament, the Storting, stood open as ever.  The Norwegians’ refusal to be frightened had the effect of minimizing his impact on their society and culture.  My friend George Lakey asked many Norwegians, “How has Norway changed since the attack?”  Everyone said in effect, “Well, it hasn’t really changed.  We are still ourselves.”  Three years later, the Conservative government’s policy statement acknowledged that immigration has contributed to Norway’s economic growth.

During his trial, Breivik complained that the Norwegian song, “Children of the Rainbow,” translated from Pete Seeger’s “My Rainbow Race,” was Marxist brainwashing.  So a couple of women in a small Norwegian town began singing that song, a mix of sadness and determination, in public.  Soon there were tens of thousands of Norwegians in Oslo, standing in the rain by the trade union headquarters, holding umbrellas and roses, crying and singing Seeger’s lyrics,
“Together shall we live, every sister, brother,
Young children of the rainbow, a fertile land.”

We Americans have much to learn.

[1] George Lakey, “Viking Economics – How the Scandinavians Got It Right…,” pp 201-204

2 thoughts on “Norway Choosing Love over War Teaches the United States a Better Way

  1. I am grateful that Norway believes in a nonviolent peace. The US should have enough courage to choose peace nonviolently.

  2. I remember what I had been thinking when I’d got the news of the bombings and shootings in Norway. When I heard that Breivik had been apprehended, I thought to myself that ‘The Norwegians will deal with him in the same way they dealt with Vidkun Quisling’, the notorious traitor, after the Second World War had ended – by the book. No Guantanamo Bays or Black sites in obscure countries. Unlike Quisling, though, Breivik didn’t face a firing squad.

    The trial of Anders Breivik is a textbook example of how a democracy under the Rule of Law should deal with outrages of this kind. A truly civilised nation has no need of armies or a nuclear arsenal to be called great – just a strong tradition of justice.

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